Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2012 Greenway Challenge

Greenway Challenge Race Report

(and photo montage via tons of awesome greenway photographers!)

It poured cats and dogs Friday as I packed my gear and belongings into my old beat-up minivan. I was drenched to the bone, cold, and exhausted from an unrelentless workload from school and work. I have been suffering from chronic moodiness, grumpiness, and frequent grumbles as my regular routine of riding bikes, running miles, and playing in kayaks have all but ceased.  Yet, somehow  I was to head out in the morning for a 7 stage adventure race known as the Greenway Challenge,  A logistical challenge to say the least, I had to pack for mountain biking, road biking, 3 legs of running, and paddling. There was no time to checkout gear, organize clothes, or carbo-load. My diet consisted of toast, coffee, school lunch, more coffee, and overcooked leftovers. Crystal, my ace support crew, who also has been swamped to the bone with work orders, hasn't even looked at a course map, let alone know what state the race was being held. Yet, in all the poor plannings and preparations, i was still looking forward to 4 hours of exertion. I sure knew my head could use it.

The Greenway challenge is a very unique adventure race. The course is redesigned every year and incorporates cycling, running, paddling, mountain biking, and trail running. No one segment is overly long, but the combination will keep you on the course between 4-6 hours. Most competitors attack the challenge in teams such as defending champs Great Canadian,  led by the enthusiastic Mark Trahan and calculating David Mangori while others as soloists. I will be taking this challenge solo.

This year's race ordering of events was a 1.5 mile trail run , a 5 mile mountain bike, 3 mile flatwater kayak, 5 mile road run, 24.5 mile road bike, 4 mile trail run, then another 4 mile downriver kayak.

Crystal and I set up the kayaks, drove to check out the transition areas, and headed to the start. All that was left was to put the mountain bike at the first transition area. As i pulled the bike out of the minivan and began to ride it over, I noticed something wasn't right. The chain kept dropping off the small ring. Further inspection showed that the chain was bent. We had 10 minutes to the start of the race and i had no tools to fix my bike.   The race seemed to be over. Competitors were already lined up at the starting line as I looked for anyone that could help. Crystal was wildly doing the same. I bumped into Dave Fagnant, longtime greenway racer and super great guy. After hearing of my woes he called over a friend, John, a local mechanic who was supporting another team. What luck! I brought him to Crystal and wished him the best.  Then the gun went off.

The start!
 The trail the Greenway organizers set up was super fun, a technical, but not too technical, single track with a challenging climb and fast finish all within 1.5 miles.With no warm up, my legs immediately fatigued as we climbed the first hill. Josh, my biggest competitor went off in a blaze while I held back still wondering if i would have a bike to ride in the next leg. Would it be possible just to run the mt bike route?

Doug Guertin of Cyclonauts
Josh crushing the trail run
As i came out of the woods I found my bike ominously  hanging from a tree branch. I thought to myself, well, that cant be good. John, the mechanic from Union Cycle was able to break the chain and pull off the busted link. Then, when putting the chain back together he accidentally rerouted the chain outside of the derailuer so that, for you non bike folk, the chain had to be broken again and rerouted. Unfortunately  John had to leave to the next transition since he was supporting a team mate of his own. As i roamed around looking for some pliers, Crystal broke the chain with her bare hands (and super strength) and then reassembled the link with no knowledge of bikes or chains. Have i mentioned how amazing she is?. I got on the bike and went....yippeeee!!!

I began the mountain bike well in the back and knew i had to ride some pretty good lines to make up some lost time. I weaved around riders and got myself into a good groove. What a super fun course. Dave Fagnant, volunteer for the Greenway, designed a beautiful  single track course over diamond hill and with the recent rains, there was plenty of opportunity to get muddy.

John McCarhy
Mark Trahan of Great Canadian
Josh Flanagan, 2011 Champ

I came out of the mountain bike course to see Crystal cheering wildly and ringing her cowbell. She is a wild women, though since i was covered in mud, she was a little more than hesitant to receive a kiss.  At this point Josh was well ahead of me and Dave Fagnant about 10 mins ahead.  I ran hard trying to get back in the top 3 ironmen. I covered the 5.1 mile course in 31 mins, just about a 6 min mile average, 1 min faster than what Josh F covered it in, 9 mins faster than David.   Pushing the run though would ultimately result in more fatigue later in the race. I came to the kayak transition to see Crystal with my paddle and jacket. She told me that Dave just left the transition area, he was only 1 minute ahead.

Former Tuck's Teamate, Alex, all smiles 
as he burns the competition

 After a few minutes on the kayak i saw Dave's boat, a Cobra surf ski. I relaxed into the paddle focusing on a clean quiet stroke with good rotation and good paddle placement. I was feeling good and just pass the first portage i was able to pass him. Later he told me that he though i had the sweetest paddle stroke. Thanks Dave!
Mark showing how to carry a boat!

Mark and Dave Mangori making the trade

We pulled up on a river bank near the bike path. I carried my boat down the path 100 yds to where Crystal should be waiting to hand me my bike from her and give me my lucky kiss. Earlier in the day we planned to leave the bike at this transition but since there was no supervision, we decided it was safer to hang on to the bike. Crystal would drop it off later. As I dropped the boat, I looked around to  find no bike nor Crystal. A few minutes passed waiting while competitors proceeded to their road bikes, including Dave Fagnant. I saw Mark Trahan and Justin Deary loading their boats (Justin the support person for Josh Flanagan) and ran towards them. Just then i saw Crystal pull in.  The next 1.5 minutes were awsome. Justin and mark hopped in action, pulling my bike out of the van , grabbing gear, and helping Crystal. Crystal was upset for being late, but it wasn't her fault. The greenway staff where not letting vehicles into the transition area and Crystal had to explain to multiple people that she was supporting a soloist. The Greenway still needs to work on their transition areas.

Dave Fagnant still killing it at 50!

Feeling the hurt after 26 miles on the road

At this point fatigue was beginning to settle in, physically and mentally. Once again i had to push hard to get back into the race specially since I knew how good a biker David was. The bike was uneventful, just a tiring slog of rotating pedals. The mental fatigue was the most taxing

Back to the run, 4 more trail miles. Now I'm hurting. The pushing earlier in the race has caught up to me. I kept up my cadence as best as i could, but my pace slowed down quite a bit and i was feeling drained. The mind was beginning to play tricks, telling me to stop,  or some crap like that. In spite of the fatigue i saw Dave not to far ahead, so i kept pushing, passed him and tried to build my lead.

As I approached the last transition, a downriver paddle i was feeling wiped! Crystal set up the transition perfectly, with my 19ft racer ready to go. When i got to the boat, i determined the 19 footer was just too risky to paddle, as i was too exhausted to balance it around the tight turns of the blackstone. So we ran to the car to get the back up kayak, a kevlar wavehopper. In hind sight, the 19 footer would have been fine.

The downriver kayak run meandered down the blackstone river, portaging twice and finishing in front of a large grassy area. I kept my lead over Dave and was able to finish 2nd ironman. I was glad to be done!

It was a great race  with Josh Flanagan finishing first in the ironman, myself second, and David third. Meanwhile, Great Canadian dominated the team division.! Of course i could not have done it without my best support, Crystal!
Great Canadian


Josh Flanagan

Me, Josh, and David

Crystal and John
Dave Mangori gives his winning prize kayak to a new racer! Awsome generosity!